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European Council (2011)

Power in the EU: the intergovernmental thesis

A theory of liberal intergovernmentalism suggests that the most important decisions in the European Union are taken by national governments. Accordingly, integration only takes place if the member states give their consent to it. The most important decisions are taken in the form of multilateral negotiations in the European Council.

These decisions are taken in the European Council, where heads of state an government meet. Only about five years ago, these summits were often in the news. Greece, the economy, the banks: to combat all these crises European leaders met frequently to discuss solutions. Ultimately, they were the ones that pushed European integration forwards, or kept it from doing so - not the Commission, the European Central Bank or other supranational bodies.

If you are interested in an in-depth discussion of the EU’s intergovernmental nature, you can read Andrew Moravcsik’s ‘Preferences and power in the European Community: a liberal intergovernmentalist approach’.

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European Culture and Politics

University of Groningen

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